Not Just “Harmless Water Vapor”

Safer or sneaky? Learn more about tobacco’s latest product

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling from various kinds of electronic devices a vaporized liquid (known as “e-juice”), which may contain nicotine, THC, flavoring and other additives.1 These devices go by many names including e-cigarettes, smokeless cigarettes, vaporizers, vape pens, mods, tanks, cigalikes, JUUL, e-hookah and hookah pens.

 

What You Need to Know

There’s a lot of buzz about vaping being a safer alternative to smoking, but how do you know who’s telling the truth and who’s blowing smoke? Here’s what experts are saying:

 

Vape use is on the rise. Especially with teens and young adults.

  • The smoking rate among U.S. high school students has dropped 30 percent since 2013 – yet 45 percent of high school students say they have experimented with vaping and a quarter are current users.2
  • While smoking rates remained largely unchanged in Colorado between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of Colorado adults who had ever vaped more than tripled, rising from 6.9 to 22.8 percent.3

 

Vape aerosol isn’t harmless.

  • Despite the claims, those big puffy vape clouds aren’t just water vapor. Studies have shown that the aerosol vapor can contain dangerous toxins, including heavy metals and chemicals known to cause cancer.4

 

Vaping can be addictive.

  • Vape “e-juice” can contain varying amounts of nicotine, which is highly addictive. Vaping also has been shown to lead to regular cigarette smoking. One study of 12th grade students who had never smoked a cigarette found that those who vaped were more than four times more likely to report smoking one year later.5
  • Nicotine also has a negative impact on teens’ brain development, making it harder for them to learn new information and pay attention.6

 

There are no standard regulations for vape manufacturers.

  • There are over 450 different types of vape products and no universal standards for product design, ingredients and safety features.7

 

Many vape products are owned by big tobacco companies, which have been known to prioritize sales over safety.8

Doctors aren’t so sure about vaping, either.

As Denver Health Hospital Family Medicine Dr. Daniel Kortsch says: “We know it’s addictive, we know it’s expensive and we know the manufacturers are making a whole lot of money selling it.”

Myths vs. Facts

Because vaping is so new, there are misleading claims about it.

Myth

Vaping is a healthy alternative to cigarettes.

 

Fact

Vape e-juice may contain nicotine, chemicals known to cause cancer, and is known to cause health problems including wheezing, coughing, sinus infections, nosebleeds, shortness of breath and asthma.9

Myth

Vaping isn’t a gateway to regular cigarettes.

 

Fact

Young people who took up vaping were more than four times more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes a year later, according to one study.

Myth

It’s just harmless water vapor.

 

Fact

It’s not harmless, and it’s not just water vapor. It may contain toxins, potentially cancerous agents and dangerous chemicals, like diacetyl, which is known to cause a fatal lung disease called popcorn lung.10 It most often contains a combination of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavorings and often nicotine.

 

References
1. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Key Facts, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://chronicdata.cdc.gov/Policy/Electronic-Nicotine-Delivery-Systems-Key-Facts-Inf/nwhw-m4ki/data
2. 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/2015_us_tobacco.pdf
3. 2015 The Attitudes and Behaviors Surveys (TABS) on Health, University of Colorado Denver
4. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Key Facts; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://chronicdata.cdc.gov/Policy/Electronic-Nicotine-Delivery-Systems-Key-Facts-Inf/nwhw-m4ki/data
5. E-cigarette use as a predictor of cigarette smoking: results from a 1-year follow-up of a national sample of 12th grade students. Retrieved from http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2017/01/04/tobaccocontrol-2016-053291?papetoc
6. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2014. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/index.htm
7. E-cigarettes: An Emerging Public Health Challenge, CDC Public Health Grand Rounds, 2015; retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/pdf/archives/2015/october2015.pdf
8. Tobacco Company Quotes on Marketing to Kids, Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. Retrieved from https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0114.pdf
9. Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of E-cigarettes, American Lung Association, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2016/07/popcorn-lung-risk-ecigs.html
10. Farsalinos KE, Kistler KA, Gillman G, Voudris V., Evaluation of Electronic Cigarette Liquids and Aerosol for the Presence of Selected Inhalation Toxins. Nicotine Tob Res. 2014; 17:168-74.